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George | A Week Of Kindness (Pickled Egg/Lejos Discos)
Although perhaps better known for her guest vocal duties for Piano Magic (and sibling enterprise Arbol) Suzy Mangion's role as one half of Manchester duo George (alongside collaborator Michael Varty) has certainly unwrapped her haunted-house exotica with much greater acclaim. So much so, that even the typically cynical Pitchfork critics rhapsodised about George's full-length debut, 'The Magic Lantern', upon its low-key release in 2003 via tiny Leicester indie label Pickled Egg. Now here comes George's second full-length affair, 'A Week Of Kindness', essentially more of the same, and equally as enchanted.
With their penchant for the eerie atmospherics of deserted Victorian musical halls, primitive gramophone records and pre-war radio broadcasts remaining a constant, 'A Week Of Kindness' is predominantly a refinement rather than major diversification of George's idiosyncratic musical idiom. Hence for the bulk of the album, antique organs wheeze, primeval percussion patters and sparse strings swathe around Mangion and Varty's spooked tones with disembodied ambience - as best exampled on the elegiac likes of The New And Better Heart and Fabula. There's also some wonderful lullaby-like balladry - such as Sunday Painter and Spend My Time - delivered in an early British campfire folk setting. As with 'The Magic Lantern', genre blending with more contemporary influences is also subtly achieved, notably on the 'Pure Phase'-era Spiritualized-like instrumental Week Of Wonders and with the blatant but wholly forgivable early-Low homage that is Now You Want To Settle Down (which should soothe those uncomfortable with the Duluth band's recent rock direction).
The whole collection is so deftly and secretively drawn that often it seems like you're intruding on something that wasn't meant for outside ears. It's a feeling that does however, like its predecessor, occasionally make you wish that the twosome would trim a little of the fat, to leave a few lesser 'mood', instead of 'song-based', pieces on the outtakes pile. But that's just nit picking really, particularly when so few contemporary British bands possess as much individuality, imagination and gentility as George.